Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why the Word "Just" Scares Me

I have been thinking alot about this little word "just." It seems pretty innocent and it definitely doesn't feel threatening. However, this word is one of the most dangerous words an innovator can hear. Why is that?

Think about it. If you are in a brainstorming session working on your new idea and a colleague of your says, "I know how to solve that issue. Just . . ." A few things have happened in this moment:
1. A solution has been presented but minimized and made to sound simple or without difficulty.
2. Expectations have been set and people are expecting that "just" will turn into "done."

But we all know that no innovation every was "just" anything. There are thousands of rabbit trails, countless false starts and a myriad of failures along the way.

Next time you hear the word "just" don't ignore it. Stop the conversation and challenge the statement. An innovation culture is one where the word "just" is banned from the conversation.


K said...

My wife and I talked about this very thing when working on a remodeling project; we started by talking about how we'd 'just' add an outlet here and replace a cabinet there...and weeks later were still slogging through all the unexpected details! While I agree that it can be dangerous in setting expectations too low, the flip-side that I've wondered about is if there is sometimes emotional value to it seeming easy. If we had known how hard the remodel would end up, we never would have started, but now that it's done, we're glad we did.

Cavin said...

Now just a minute. I just heard you say this is just another scary word. But just because it is an often overused word does not make it a "scary" word in a just context. Just imagine how hard it would be to converse if we just eliminated just from our vocabulary. It would just be terrifying for some people to just give up the word just, just to make everyone else happy. Just think about it! :)

Jon and Mindy Hirst said...


Thanks for that very practical example. You are right. Sometimes when we set expectations high we force ourselves to do somethingh challenging. I think the key is to know that we are doing that and be intentional about it instead of just getting stuck with "just" another project.

Jon and Mindy Hirst said...


Point well taken friend. We can't eliminate words but we can use them intentionally and understand what happens when we do use them.